Freedom For Kids Today

Since the beginning of time, parents have been reminding their children what life was like when they were growing up.  They point out how different the world was when they were kids, and how much easier today’s kids have it.  A few generations back, they (jokingly) talked about having to walk five miles, uphill (both ways), in the snow to get to school, while this generation of parents talk about the vast conveniences and state of the art technology that they could only dream of when they were kids.  There is no doubt that kids today are very fortunate for the wonderful opportunities they are offered, but there is one very significant advantage that past generations had over today’s kids, and that is Freedom.  Freedom to explore and grow. 

Parents who grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s spent a lot more time doing things independently, like walking to school, biking to a friend’s house, or meeting up at the park.  Daily activities of exploration outside of the house, away from parental supervision, was the norm.  There was a natural sense of freedom that today’s generation of kids no longer has.  We have replaced the freedom of childhood exploration and independence with carpools, organized activities, and constant attention.

Most parents today could not even imagine letting their kids have the freedom they grew up with.  What used to be the norm, looks out of place today. If we see a child walking down the street or riding their bike alone, we are concerned and wonder why he or she isn’t being supervised. Are today’s kids more fragile or have we become more anxious? Maybe we have too much information, too much access to our kids, too much pressure to hover over them and protect them.  Kids in 2020 may try to capture some freedom from adult supervision on social media platforms that are designed to keep parents out, but it will never replace the freedom of exploration that every child needs to develop their sense of identity. 

Kids need some adventure and exploration independent of their parents.  They need to take healthy risks to build their self-confidence and resilience.  Psychologist and author of Homesick and Happy, Michael Thompson, Ph.D, says “For kids to have full psychological ownership of their achievements, they have to be away from their parents. So, the task for us is to step back, open the door, and let a child go. True independence is something parents cannot give their children; kids must live it on their own.” Letting go can be hard in this era of constant access to our kids, but doing so gives them much needed freedom to grow and become healthy and happy individuals.  

Overnight summer camp gives kids back some of the freedom past generations experienced year-round.  At camp, kids get to spread their wings and discover who they are. Campers welcome the freedom to make decisions and explore their surroundings in a caring and supportive environment.  From the moment they get off the bus, kids gain ownership of their decisions, get to step outside of their comfort zone, and learn from every new experience.   Camp fosters independence, allowing kids to spend time away from home to learn important life skills and develop resilience, confidence, and grit.   

Freedom at camp also comes from being “unplugged.”  Campers are present and connect with friends to build their own stories and lifetime memories.  Everything at camp is in real time, and there is no better freedom than that.  Camp gives kids the freedom to take healthy risks in the great outdoors, overcome fears, try new foods, make new friends, and own the outcomes.  Freedom at overnight camp gives kids the tools, just like past generations had, to help them develop into resilient and confident people who could easily make that five-mile journey to school, just like grandpa did!